Cleveland Clinic heart issues covid pandemic

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — A recent Cleveland Clinic survey finds that 41 percent of Americans have experienced at least one heart-related issue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The top issues including: shortness of breath, dizziness, increased blood pressure and chest pain.

About one in four Americans (27%), who have tested positive for COVID-19 say that their diagnosis has impacted their heart health, the study shows.

Changes in daily habits, like diet and exercise, may be to blame here. As we’re nearing the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, Americans are facing the consequences of what they may have been doing – or not doing – while we stayed home.

The survey shows that sitting throughout the day is on the rise (+5 points in percentage of Americans who say they often do this) and walking throughout the day has declined (-4 points in percentage of Americans who say they often do this).

Americans now say that they often or sometimes sit throughout the day (77%).

About one-third of Americans don’t know that the following factors can increase your risk of developing heart disease:

  • Stress (33%)
  • High Blood pressure (35%)
  • Obesity (39%)
  • Smoking/vaping (41%)

Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Nicholas Ruthmann says the pandemic has impacted the heart both physically – including elevated inflammation of the body from a COVID infection – but also the indirect impact of elevated stress on our body and our lives in general.

“We’re exercising less. We’re focusing less on consuming a heart healthy diet,” Ruthmann said. “Most importantly, we’re not listening to our bodies or we say, ‘Well, I don’t know, I’m concerned, I’m fearful about going to an ER or doctor’s office and so people are delaying care.’”

Ruthmann says that besides the important steps of getting your heart checked by your doctor, you can also be proactive by switching to a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, or a plant-based diet.

“I certainly don’t implore or encourage us to do any sort of crash diet in 2022 and moving forward in the pandemic, but it is important to really take a look at what you’re eating and focus more on heathier options, more plant-based foods, less dairy, less red meats,” he said. “But please come and see a cardiologist. See your primary care doctor where we can sit down and educate people about the best diet for them, access their risk and go forward to protect their hearts.”

February is American Heart Month to raise awareness of heart disease and to encourage healthy dieting, exercise and less alcohol use. Dry January took place last month to encourage giving up alcohol for 31 days in an effort to improve physical and mental health and also save money.

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